Question about Superscripts in Chord Names

• Jul 9, 2010 - 19:12

I have a question about chord names -- I would like to have the 7 of "C7" to appear as a superscript. When I am entering the chord name, I type the C, click the up arrow, type 7, and it looks right with the 7 as a superscript. When I move on to the next chord or finish, it goes back to a regular 7. I can't seem to get the 7 to STAY as a superscript. Am I doing something wrong?

Thanks for the feedback. Musescore is GREAT.


You might try to use jazz chord font instead. Go to Style -> Edit Global style -> Chordnames. Then click on the little folder near Chord description file and pick jazzchords.xml. Then Type C7 a a chordname in your score and you will have C superscript 7 in "fakebook" style font.

In reply to by [DELETED] 5

I have the same issue, and for me, changing the font is not a good solution. I'm going to edit the PDF I save to send to people in my band, but it's a bit annoying all the same.

Some of my older files don't have this problem, so maybe something changed in the recent updates?

In reply to by carinbasson

What do you mean when you say changing the font is not a good solution, what do you mean? Do ytou mean you don't understand how to do this, or that you have your own special font you need to use? If the latter, you can always edit the chord description file you are using manually to add the superscripts.

Nothing changed any time recently, but maybe if you post a score and describe the problem you are seeing in more detail, we might be able to help.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I was mistaken about there being a change, I was working from a Musescore-generated score someone sent me in PDF form, so it's possible he also manually changed the 7 to superscript.

What I meant is that if the appearance of the chord is not what I expect, in this case that the 7 doesn't automatically become a superscript, then, while changing the chord font solves the problem of making the 7 superscript, it also drastically changes the appearance of the chord, since there's now another font involved.

If having a superscript 7 is the most important consideration, then it's a good solution, but for me, having the chords in the same font as the lyrics is more important, so the solution doesn't work for me.

Editing the chord description file would be very useful, but I'll need some instructions. I searched for it on the forum, but no luck so far.

In reply to by carinbasson

The MuseJazz font isn't just for chords - it can be used for lyrics and all other elements as well. Scores created from any of the "Jazz" templates use this font for everything - chords, lyrics, titles, staff text, etc. See for instance this, which was created directly from the Jazz Lead Sheet template with no special customizations required:

But it is true that this font is not for everyone. It's pretty much standard in the jazz world to use a handwritten style, but in some circles, I suppose more traditional fonts might be preferred.

In which case, hand-editing the XML file is the way to go. You don't say which chord style you are using, but I'll assume it is stdchords.xml, since that is the default if you don't start from a template that sets it to something else.

Customizing that file is, unfortunately, a bit of work, since it wasn't designed to be customized easily. If you want the 7 superscript in C7, C7b9, C7sus, C7#11, and all the other dozens of variations on C7, you have to do it individually for each. But it's mostly jazz musicians who use that many chords, and I'm guessing you might not be doing jazz since you seem reluctant to use a typical jazz font. So depending on how many different kinds of chords you use, it might not be too bad to just customize the ones you care about. Read the XML file itself and you'll see some (but not much) documentation. It's basically a matter of inserting "m:x:y" elements where you want to adjust the position of something. So instead of the line 7, you'd make it m:0:3 7 or something like that.

The "cchords_*" style files were designed to be more easily customized. A single line change near the top of the file controls the superscripting of all 7's in all chord symbols instead of needing to it separately for C7, C7alt, C7#5, etc. And there is pretty decent documentation at the top of the file where those customizations would go. Of course, the cchords_msue style (the default for the Jazz templates) already superscripts the 7, so you wouldn't need to customize it unless you wanted to try to adapt it to work with a different font. It is tuned right now to work with MuseJazz in terms of the sizes and positions of various elements, and that is part of the reason why it ignores the font setting you make in your text style settings and explicitly sets everything to MuseJazz. But if this is something you care about enough to be manually editing PDF files right now, then you might find a couple of hours spent on customizing an XML file to meet your specs would be well worth it.

I'm trying to write the b9 version of the G chord, and I'm trying to distinguish it from the 9th version of the Gb chord.

I thought at first that "Gb9" would mean the latter, but that if I could move the "b9" into a superscript, that would make it clear that I mean the former, which is what led me to this thread.

Now, however, I'm seeing that the jazz font's b and # symbols already look "semi superscripted", making me wonder how effective superscripting will be.

In any case, what I came up with was to put the "b9" in parens to make it clear that the "b" goes with the "9", not the "G": "G(b9)". This had the positive side effect that the jazz font superscripted everything after the "G". But the parens still look clumsy.

Is there a better or more correct way of handling this ambiguity?



In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

That's a very cool shortcut: it lets you jump to chord insertion on the next chord without any clicking.

However, it doesn't appear to have anything to do with superscripting, so I'm not sure why it's relevant?

In reply to by reggoboy

Ctrl+Space is not the same as Space. Plain Space is for advancing to the next position, Ctrl+Space is for inserting a space inside a chord symbol. So you could in theory use it to put a space between the G and the b9, if you ever do find the need to specify a chord with a flat nine but no seventh. Still, parens are more standard, more unambiguous, and thus the better way to handle that rare situation.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks for the reply!

Yes, I understand the difference between Space and Ctrl+Space.

In MuseScore 2.1.0 for the Mac, whether I hit Space or Ctrl+Space, the insertion point jumps from the current chord to the next. I have not modified any of the Shortcuts from their defaults.

Perhaps you somehow have a different set of defaults?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Ah yes, once again, thanks for the reply.

I am familiar with the cross-platform need to often convert Control to Command, so I had tried that. However, in doing so, I was promptly reminded that Command-Space is the system-wide invocation of Spotlight Search on the Mac, which got immediately invoked (and MuseScore did nothing).

So I'm guessing that neither of you are Mac users or that you've remapped your Shortcuts to something else; otherwise, this won't work.

If I ever need to insert a Space into a chord, I'll go down that road :-)


In reply to by reggoboy

This sounds like something that needs to be brought up in the issue tracker as a feature request. The space inside a lyric is not a shortcut that can be user defined like most shortcuts outside of a text edit mode (such a lyrics). Since I'm not a Mac user myself, I wouldn't know which shortcut would make sense and not interfere with the MAC OS.

In reply to by reggoboy

Okay, so it seems that on a Mac, Muse is using Option-Space to accomplish this purpose. I probably should have tried that.

Having said that, it still seems to me that using Control-Space as on Windows would make sense.

As for my original question, using G7b9 fixed the problem :-)

Thanks again!

In reply to by reggoboy

Gb9 always means a dominant ninth chord built on Gb. It is incorrect to write Gb9 if you really mean a G triad with no seventh but with an added flatted ninth. For one thing, that would be an extremely non-standard chord in the first place - flat months normally imply sevenths. A triad with a b9 would create confusion among musicians trying to figure out how to voice and improvise over the chord (which seventh should be used in melodies?). But if you are absolutely sure you want to specify this non-standard chord, you need the parentheses. It is the only way to resolve the ambiguity. And if you are really dead set against hearing the seventh that musicians would naturally add any time they see a b9, probably best to specify hat explicitly as well. That is, write something like "G(b9)no7".

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


Thanks for the reply! However it confuses me.

I don’t know why you think I’m trying to exclude the 7th. As you said, a 9th always implies a dominant 7th. Without the 7th, the G9 would be a Gadd2.

Perhaps because I’m flatting the 9th, you think some ambiguity is entering. I can see some basis in that. In this song, the G(b9) follows a G9, and so the context makes it pretty clear that we’re just lowering one note. But it’s probably more precise to call it G7b9.

And I imagine you’re implying that if you’re do use the latter notation, the original ambiguity problem I inquired about goes away and the font will superscript as expected.

I’ll try it when I get home!


In reply to by reggoboy

The reason I assumed you wanted to exclude the seventh is that the usual chord would be spelled G7b9. No parens required, no ambiguity. The ambiguity only arises if you need to exclude the seventh.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

The usual rule, btw, is that you always included the highest unaltered extension immediately after the root, before you list any alterations. That rule is specifically designed to avoid ambiguity - this way the root is normally always followed by a number, which is always unambiguous.

That's why the flat nine chord including the seventh is spelled G7b9. If you also wanted an unaltered thirteenth, it would be G13b9. But if you wanted a flat thirteenth, it is G7b9b13. Again, always put the highest unaltered extension first.

One would not normally be specifying a chord that includes any type of altered ninth or thirteenth but excludes the seventh - that would be a very rare thing to need to do. However, that would be the only situation where ambiguity would exist, because you wouldn't have a number tomorrow next to the root. And hence this is the only situation that requires parens for alterations - situations where you need to specify an alteration but wish to exclude the seventh. Normally, the unaltered extension (eg, 7) serves to separate the root from any alterations.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella


Thanks for this very eloquently worded rule:

“The usual rule, btw, is that you always included the highest unaltered extension immediately after the root, before you list any alterations.”

The key in this case is “unaltered”. We need to think in terms of two parts to the chord: the unaltered phrase and the subsequent alterations. Once the song moved from the 9th to the flatted the 9th, even though it’s only a half step change between chords, the chord name needs an overhauling by inserting the “7”. This makes it a little harder to visualize the subtlety of the voice movement, but the chord name is at least unambiguous.

Thanks again!

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

While we’re talking about ambiguity, let me ask a question I’ve pondered for years.

I was taught as a youth than extended chords generally implied the stacked thirds underneath them. Eg, a G13 includes, the 7, 9, and 11. But in practice this is typically not true. Often the 9 or 11 (or both) are dropped.

So if I see G13, is there an unambiguous way to know what notes are intended to be included?

In reply to by reggoboy

Chord symbols are a shorthand, not an exact recipe. It is always up to the player to decide how to voice a chord, including decisions like whether to include a 9 in a G13, what order to play the notes in, etc. If you need a very specific voicing played, best to simply write it out and not try to use a chord symbol to trickl the player into doing what you want. Chord symbols are for when you trust the player to make his own decisions :-). He might include the 9 if it happens to fall neatly under his fingers and doesn't clash with the melody, or he might elect not to.

That said, sure, while technically G13 would include a 7, 9, and 11, virtually any player experienced enough to be familiar with this chord symbol in the first place would recognize it probably won't sound as intended if voiced with the 11, so 99% of the time he'd leave it out. Only cases I can think of where he might deliberately include it is if that happens to be the melody note, or if he plans to play the 11 as a 4 for half the duration of the chord and then resolve the suspension. Experienced players do this sort of thing all the time without waiting for it to be spelled out in the chord symbol.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Thanks again for the reply!

Yep yep, I know all about interpretation and improvisation. Here I was just asking about accurate communication.

Given that it’s about 10x easier to write out chord names than it is to write notation (and nearly impossible to write notation in an email or text message), I was trying to see how far we could go with chord names towards capturing detail and nuance.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

... "That's why the flat nine chord including the seventh is spelled G7b9. If you also wanted an unaltered thirteenth, it would be G13b9. But if you wanted a flat thirteenth, it is G7b9b13. Again, always put the highest unaltered extension first." ...

That's interesting. A succinct explanation. Thanks.

In reply to by Socalsalas

This thread was originally about superscripting the 7, so it sounds like you are talking about something different. Also, this thread was originally about a very much older version of MsueScore, so much has changed. Best to start a new thread if you have a question about how to use the current version of MuseScore.

Because standard chord symbol would not include a b9 without a 7, you will need to use parentheses. So, E(b9). Otherwise it will be understood as an Eb ninth chord. And if you want it superscriped, see the "Modifier" scaling and offset options in Format / Style / Chord Symbols.

10 years later and I am trying to make a V7 chord a superscript 7. Which arrow do you mean to make it superscript? I don't mind doing it every time I come across a 7th chord!

In reply to by antonia.king.92

The simple way to get superscripting is to start your score with one of the Jazz templates. Then it, and other jazz-specific notations like handwritten font, winged repeats, and more, happen automatically.

If you have an score not created with that template but you want the jazz look for chord symbols, easiest way is to go to Format / Style / Chord Symbols and set the Jazz option there.

If you don’t want the jazz look in general but do wish to use superscripting of chord extensions like 7, then in that same dialog, simply use the controls a little farther down in the “extension” section to decrease the size a little and specify a negative offset to raise it a little.

All of these are things you do just once for the score, not every chord.

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